Monday, July 26, 2010

The Peacock Effect: For the Sake of Originality, Let's Ditch the Necktie

Ok,  It might be imperative to pre-empt this post with the fact that even I have fallen victim to this now, very defunct fashion statement as a musician.  Regardless, I was hoping, our community as a whole could mark today as the day we officially
lose the necktie as a stylish "alternative"
fashion statement for stage or promotional wear.

Let's just spend a short moment trying to understand why the necktie was successful in the first place.  Let's break the third wall and think about why this was considered cool and whom or what "made" it cool.

Well,  the necktie is traditionally used by professionals in a business setting.  Therefore, the necktie makes a few unspoken statements and has it's own engrained associations.  Loosely put, the necktie says:  Mature, professional, business, serious, smart, etc.  The originator of necktie use in a musical/concert setting (we won't name names) was trying to (whether deliberately or not) create what is considered the "Peacock Effect" by wearing the necktie in a setting that is not usually associated with most of the above terms.

What is the "Peacock Effect?":  In a loose definition, the "Peacock Effect" is an effect created when one uses something (in many cases something visual, such as odd colors on clothing, various accessories that are out of the norm, etc.) to stand out in a crowd.  Much like an actual peacock would with it's bright colors, etc.

What is another example a use of the "Peacock Effect" in musical history?
  • The use of women's makeup and big hair by 80's rock stars.
What usually happens when the Peacock Effect is overused?
  • The odd use of the new item in a different setting almost always "stands out" at first, but over time that item usually develops it's own, new associations.  For example, the use of the necktie in a musical setting is now usually associated with a singer-songwriter because of it's overuse by this group of musicians.  Not only is it no longer original, but it's purpose (to stand out) is pretty much defeated. 
Even country star Dierks Bentley
has jumped on the skinny tie bandwagon.
In a quick example that doesn't involve music:  For a short while 5 years ago, a male could achieve head-turning attention by wearing pink clothing.  Over time, this became less effective with the increasing popularity of the color and the implementation of the association term:  "metrosexual." Thus categorizing the use of the color by males.  This not only made the use more accepted, but even a standard color choice for men.

This is not to say that musicians are looking for attention, per se.  Perhaps you wear the necktie because you find it comfortable, or you usually do when you aren't on stage?  But the goal of stage and promotional wear is to wear something unique, something that the audience isn't wearing.  You are the star, you are looking to set yourself apart and in essence create an "image."  I have personally been told true stories of a record label requiring their musicians, by contract, to wear black socks as opposed to the standard white in order for the band to set themselves apart.  Sadly, these types of unique statements are no longer being made by the necktie and only time will tell what will take it's place.  Maybe it's just me, but I am hoping it's replacement comes soon.  Until then, I am sure that we will continue to see it onstage and through camera lenses.